Whether it is a cold January day, talk of the first harbingers of spring, or the onset of leaves turning in the fall and gracing the refreshment table, a garden club meeting never fails to boost my spirits while teaching me something new. Today was no exception. After some socializing and a brief meeting, the featured speaker was introduced and some 50 or 60 women in attendance forgot the cold outside as they were swept away by Chad Nichols of Nichols Farm in Marengo, IL and the promise of summer’s bounty began to lure us out of our winter’s slumber.
Does Nichols Farms sound familiar? If you frequent any number of the Farmers’ Markets in the Chicago area, chances are likely you purchased some plants in early summer, heirloom tomatoes or one of 20 varieties of potatoes sold by them.
Chad spent close to an hour showing slides and giving us a history of the business, which was started as a hobby farm in 1978. He introduced us to some interesting varieties of vegetables grown on the farm, talked about farming methods used there, and supplied all sorts of interesting horticultural information.
Chad let us all know that it is “fun to see everyone coming back each year” to the Nichols’ produce stand, which they have been manning in Elmhurst for 30 years. He explained to us about how to vernalize seeds and use plain paper plates to put squash seeds on, store by placing one plate on top of the other, and then plant in the spring – plate included! .
One slide appeared and Chad started talking about cole crops. At first, I thought he said cold crops. A few of us whispered “shouldn’t that be cold?” and then the question was asked. Cole crops are vegetables that grow on stems like cauliflower, brussel sprouts and broccoli and, among other benefits, actually get sweeter with the first frost and can boast wonderful colors.
I love the way that a new bit of information sneaks in like that first warm breeze that hints of spring. There is time yet for spring breezes, but it was good today to be dreaming of fresh produce and the growing abundance of local Farmers Markets and of the gleaning of a few tossed seeds of knowledge.
After dinner, I looked up vernalization of seeds and growing cole crops, and spent a little time tilling that still fertile farm of my imagination. It felt pretty good to be thinking of vegetables freshly picked and brought to market and herbs and local berries to take home and savor.
How about you? Did you learn something new recently? Are you starting to think of your own garden or your local farmers market?